Lance Armstrong and Frankie Andreu are speaking again.
In what seems to be part of Armstrong’s goodwill Tour de France, the seven-time champion specifically asked to have Andreu, a Versus commentator, assigned the network’s Astana detail at this year’s race.
Former teammates and close friends at Motorola and U.S. Postal Service, Armstrong and Andreu had a widely documented falling out and had not spoken since 2004.
Andreu told VeloNews he was surprised when Versus producers on site in Monaco informed him that Astana had requested he conduct interviews with Armstrong and the team, which is managed by Andreu’s former boss and close Armstrong friend Johan Bruyneel.
“I got a phone call Saturday morning that I’m on the Astana detail and in charge of interviewing Lance and the rest of the team,” Andreu said. “I was definitely surprised and shocked by it. They told me Astana had called over and requested it. I didn’t understand why or what was going on, but Versus said to go over and do it.”
Asked about the decision to mend the proverbial fence with Andreu, Armstrong said, “I don’t have a problem with Frankie. He’s an old teammate; he’s an old friend. Obviously more is made out of the weirdness… but for me it’s not a problem. If he comes up, I’m not going to say ‘I’m not talking to you.’”
After retiring as a racer in 2000, Andreu worked as a team director with U.S. Postal Service in 2001 and 2002 and has worked sporadically for the Versus network (formerly Outdoor Life Network.)
However Andreu said he has not interviewed Armstrong or any other member of his teams since 2002 or 2003.
“Maybe the last time we spoke at all was 2004,” Andreu said.
The chasm between the two riders opened in late 2003 when Irish reporter David Walsh, working on the exposé “L.A. Confidentiel,” phoned Andreu’s home; Betsy Andreu provided Walsh with the phone number of Armstrong’s former girlfriend.
The problems were exacerbated when a lawsuit between Armstrong and SCA forced Andreu and his wife Betsy to testify under oath in late 2005 that Armstrong had admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs in an Indiana hospital in 1996 during his treatment for cancer.
Betsy Andreu also testified that Armstrong asked her husband to pull off a highway near Milan in March 1999 so he could spend an hour in a van with Michele Ferrari, the notorious Italian doctor whose medical license was suspended in October 2004 for sporting fraud and for illegally acting as a pharmacist. Ferrari was absolved of all charges by Italian appeals court in May 2006.
Armstrong has acknowledged that he consulted with Ferrari for advice on training, cadence and nutrition, but has steadfastly denied using any performance-enhancing drugs during his career.
The relationship between the former American teammates was further damaged when Andreu admitted to the New York Times in a September 2006 story that he had used EPO in 1999 as a member of Armstrong’s Tour-winning U.S. Postal Service team.
Betsy Andreu told the Times she blamed Armstrong for pressuring teammates to use drugs, saying her husband “didn’t use EPO for himself, because as a domestique, he was never going to win that race. It was for Lance.”
Armstrong told Sports Illustrated in June 2007 that Betsy Andreu is motivated by “bitterness, jealousy and hatred.”
Both men, however, stopped short of characterizing their re-opened line of communication as a “reconciliation.”
“I don’t know why Lance wanted me to do the interviews,” Andreu said. “I’m here covering the Tour de France, and I’m fine with covering Astana and Lance. None of it made sense to me, but he’s been very cooperative, walking over, talking with me. So far, no problems.”
Armstrong, who has been signing autographs, making time for journalists and seems markedly more relaxed than during his previous Tour tenure, said his stance towards Andreu is all part of appreciating his return to the race that made him an internationally recognized celebrity.
“This go round I’m not here to start any fights,” Armstrong said. “I’m having a good time, just trying to keep it chill, and see how fast we go.”